Jerri Hemsworth, CEO of Newman Grace Marketing, interviews family law attorney Jessica Liu, Founder of Bacosa Family Law. Jessica shares her story of becoming an attorney while raising two sons. Why did she choose family law? Where does she volunteer and why? Listen to how Jessica’s got her start.
How She Got Her Start
How She Got Her Start is a podcast devoted to the stories of women business owners and women executives. Listening to their stories, their challenges and their successes is meant to inspire other women while they maneuver the world of business. Whether they are attorneys, accountants, marketing and public relation execs, or IT specialists, every woman has a unique journey with shared threads of commonality. Hearing how we are a community of common goals and dreams hopefully inspires those on the journey with us and those coming after us.
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And now from the Echelon Studios in Los Angeles, California it’s the How She Got Her Start podcast. So let’s all get started with your host, Jerri Hemsworth.
Jerri Hemsworth 00:24
Hi, there, it’s Jerri Hemsworth. And welcome to How She Got Her Start. This podcast is one of passion for me. I have always been passionate about women business owners and women executives and learning their stories about how they got where they are today in their businesses. And I’m very happy to be here with Jessica of Bacosa Family Law in Calabasas. How are you?
I’m doing well. Jerri, thank you.
Jerri Hemsworth 00:58
I’m so glad you’re here. We we’ve met not too long ago. And I was struck by some of the things you had said about your story and how you became the owner of your own law firm. Family law. And some of the things that you handle, like divorce and prenup. Postnup What are some of the other things that you tend to handle in your firm?
Um, I right now, what’s really becoming popular are cohabitation agreements. In California, if you are unmarried, but you live together, you could still technically be held to some responsibilities to your partner, similar to as if you were married. But the law actually is contract law, not family law, but family law attorneys handle these cases?
Jerri Hemsworth 01:52
Well, that’s it’s contract law.
Jerri Hemsworth 01:55
Okay. But it seems like it would fall right into family law.
It does. So it’s interesting, because so the law is based on contract law, but what you’re enforcing are family law rights.
Jerri Hemsworth 02:08
And how long have you had your firm? How long have you been on your own doing your own thing?
So just slightly under a year.
Jerri Hemsworth 02:18
Okay. And let’s, let’s back up a little bit. Where did you grow up?
So I grew up in the Bay Area in a small town called Livermore.
Jerri Hemsworth 02:28
We know Livermore very well.
Very few people do unless they know about the two national labs there.
Jerri Hemsworth 02:34
Right. Right. That was one of our pitstops on our way up to Berkeley to go visit our daughter when we would drive up and, and we liked Livermore. It’s right next to Dublin.
Yeah, it’s such a great little town to grow up in. I think that’s probably why I’m a suburb girl now.
Jerri Hemsworth 02:50
Yeah. Yeah. It’s kind of hard to go from that kind of environment into the city, isn’t it?
It is. It’s I love the peacefulness of small towns.
Jerri Hemsworth 03:00
Yeah, I I’m with you. Now it was anybody in your family an attorney how to do… Did you dream of being attorney as a kid?
You know, my grandma says I would talk about it when I was younger. I don’t really recall that. But no, no one in my family was an attorney. I am actually a first generation college student. Yeah, even some of the women in my family did not even graduate high school. So it was a really big deal for me. And I had two older brothers who did not attend college either. So I was breaking, I guess the boundaries of my family.
Jerri Hemsworth 03:36
Was that a conscious decision for you? Or was it one that just I’m this is a natural path. For me, this is what I’m doing.
You know, it’s a mix of both really, I had just some amazing teachers, my assistant principal at my school, when I was a junior, he encouraged me to start taking classes at community college. And I was like, this is way better than high school, I could do this. And maybe I can go to college. And that’s kind of how I got my start. And higher education.
Jerri Hemsworth 04:08
That’s, it’s, it’s interesting that you say that because I’m a first generation, four year university student in my family, in my in my immediate family, my siblings, two brothers ahead of me and a sister went to community college, and that’s about as far as they went. And I went straight to university as well. And and, Like you I was influenced by teachers, my grandfather, and it just, it was a natural step. And I find it fascinating, how we, as women, decide, okay, this is this is my path. This is where I’m going and and how I’m going to get there. So where do you end up going to school?
So I for undergrad I went to University of Tennessee.
Jerri Hemsworth 05:03
Oh, wow. Yeah. How did you pick Tennessee?
Well, I love football. I have always been slightly obsessed with Peyton Manning. Okay. One of my children may be named Peyton.
Jerri Hemsworth 05:18
Does Peyton Manning know this?
We held up a sign at a game, but he did not come over and say hi.
Jerri Hemsworth 05:25
That’s just wrong.
I know, right? Maybe he’ll listen to this. And he’ll reach out to this…
Jerri Hemsworth 05:30
We’ll forward it to him.
And then also my grandmother. When I was in middle school, she moved to Tennessee. Okay, and so she lives in kind of a suburb of Knoxville. And so I had gone to visit, and I fell in love with the area. And it was just kind of a natural fit. It was the only school I applied to,
Jerri Hemsworth 05:50
It felt right for you?
Jerri Hemsworth 05:52
It’s the only school you apply to.
So because I went to community college first, and I considered transferring to some other schools. But it just kind of Yeah, it felt right to me. I didn’t have the knowledge or my family’s help and choosing colleges or making those decisions. I just kind of made a choice.
Jerri Hemsworth 06:12
I can I can identify with so many of what you just said. And so did you live with your grandmother? Or or did you live on campus? How did? What was that experience like for you?
I lived with my grandmother for one year. And then I lived in an apartment with a friend for the next year. And then my senior year of college, I had my son. And so we lived in Tennessee offered on campus family housing, and childcare. It was I was very fortunate to have all of that available to me.
Jerri Hemsworth 06:46
Yeah. So you have a little boy. And how did you get to law school? What was your journey like there?
While I was pregnant before my senior year, I started talking to some friends and was saying I was considering going to law school. And a family friend recommended that I go work at a law firm before I do that.
Jerri Hemsworth 07:10
That’s actually very smart.
Yeah, so we I applied and was accepted. I’m sorry.
Jerri Hemsworth 07:21
That’s okay. Yeah.
I went to a boutique to large firm in DC that handled antitrust law.
Jerri Hemsworth 07:29
Jerri Hemsworth 07:31
Did you even know what antitrust law was at that point?
I did not.
Jerri Hemsworth 07:35
It’s a law firm. And it’s in DC. For pity’s sake, I’m going,
I’m going until I spent my summer in DC. And it was really eye opening. I really enjoyed the work. It was difficult. But it just didn’t quite fulfill my need to help people. Yeah, so that wasn’t the path I chose to take. But I did decide that yes, I do want to go to law school.
Jerri Hemsworth 08:03
So you said in one of our previous conversations, that you’re pretty empathetic, and that you need to help people. So did that play a part in where you went to law school? Or where are you knew you wanted to practice the law? Or were you just kind of knew, I gotta go to law school, I’m gonna find a place of practice.
You know, it was a mix of both. So being from the Bay Area, I looked at bay area schools, and hopes that I would have my family to help support me while going to school with my young son. He was nine months old, and I started so
Jerri Hemsworth 08:42
That’s brave. That’s very brave.
It was pretty scary. But so I applied to only one law school, Santa Clara,
Jerri Hemsworth 08:52
you’re you’re You’re famous for the one schools, right? You’re very confident. This is where I’m going. Take me. I’m coming.
You know, I don’t know why I did that. I guess I just maybe partially didn’t know better. Personally. Maybe it was like, well, if only apply to one and I don’t get in then I have an excuse to take a year off. Yeah, makes sense. Maybe that might have been what was going on in the back of my head. But, you know, I was accepted. And so Santa Clara offered a part time program. And so having my son that made sense for me, as well as it’s a Jesuit school. There are I know there are motto when I attended was lawyers who lead. We did a lot of work on, you know, being compassionate and working, helping other people. The Jesuits were great. The priest actually gave me like a scholarship for one year to help pay for some of the expenses of having a child in law school. So for me, it was just it was a very empathetic community that also reached out to the other An outer community of Santa Clara and gave back as well.
Jerri Hemsworth 10:03
That’s so cool. I know. University of San Francisco was Jesuit as is Georgetown. And Loyola I believe. Yes. They’re all that kind of sister schools, you know. And I’ve heard amazing things about that education in that support system. How did you find yourself to family law? Did you know In law school, I that was your path.
You know, I did kind of, as you alluded to, I think I’m a pretty empathetic person. I really like to help people. And so when I was in law school, actually, my best friend and I, we said we were going to start our own family law firm when we graduated from law school. It didn’t work out for a number of reasons. But we so I spent a lot of time in law school doing my volunteer hours and pro bono work and family law. I actually became a certified law student, so I was doing trials while in law school.
Jerri Hemsworth 11:06
You’re kidding. That was a thing.
Yes. If you have a supervising attorney, you can. And so I work through different pro bono organizations and take cases mostly domestic violence victims that okay, an area that I kind of have a soft spot for, and I still do pro bono work here. Now through the Harriett Buhai Center for domestic violence victims.
Jerri Hemsworth 11:29
How much time do you devote to that would you say on an annual basis?
Um, you know, I’m not really sure. Right now, I have a really large case, that’s taking a lot of time. But you know,
Jerri Hemsworth 11:43
when you can
Yeah, what I can I definitely try. And I would say at least 50 hours a year, if not more, yeah.
Jerri Hemsworth 11:50
That’s impressive. Impressive. So you are in law school. You wrap that up? And then what?
Well, I last minute, after graduating move to Las Vegas.
Jerri Hemsworth 12:07
And shortly after I got married, so I ended up taking the Nevada bar instead of the California bar.
Jerri Hemsworth 12:15
And you pass that I’m sure. Like, you only applied once. I’m sure.
I did, only take it once.
Jerri Hemsworth 12:24
So your license. Are you still licensed in Nevada?
Yes. So I am licensed in both California and Nevada.
Jerri Hemsworth 12:29
Oh, my gosh, but you didn’t practice law right away. Did you
No, so I did some work. Some pro bono work. I did. start my own firm, but I never really got it off the ground, I ended up helping my husband with his business and raising our children. Which wasn’t the path I thought I would take. But I think it really helped prepare me for where I’m, where I am now. And kind of where I’m going. I you know, in managing our businesses, I learned a lot of skills to help me set up my own business now.
Jerri Hemsworth 13:04
That’s what we were talking about in an earlier conversation is the skills that we learn along the way Come back and help us today. I was surprised when I started our business. What I didn’t know I kind of never envisioned, oh, you know, having my own business. I just kind of knew this was the next step. But no clue. I wish I had had some experience like you with oh, okay, we need to get insurance or we need to review this policy or this contract and stuff like that. Did having your law degree and all your education help. When you were managing your husband’s businesses and the businesses that you had when you were married?
You know, it really did. The biggest thing was the ability to read a contract. We are approached by a lot of people to invest in their businesses. And just being able to read the contract and understand the terms and have a discussion with him about it really helped as well as kind of, like you said, the stuff you don’t really think about. I was purchasing insurance for our business for both health insurance, business insurance. You know, started our own retirement plan, things like that. So it really helped me grow as a business owner.
Jerri Hemsworth 14:26
Yes, yes. And then you came to California, how’d you get to California from Vegas?
You know, Vegas was not my favorite spot.
Jerri Hemsworth 14:40
I’m with you on that one.
So when my husband began working here, I was like me and the kids are moving. Because he was kind of going back and forth. And I was like, well, then we’d like to be in California. And so I think after being here a few years, I decided I was ready to return practicing law and COVID was kind of a gift to me. And that we were all home. And I was able to study and take and pass the California bar.
Jerri Hemsworth 15:12
Oh, that’s brilliant. And that’s when you knew, Okay, this is what I’m going to do.
Yeah. So then I worked for friend for about a year. And then last year, I started my own
Jerri Hemsworth 15:24
firm. I want to know, what was that? day like the first day of your new firm? Your family lot? Do you remember? Or did it gradually sneak up on you? Or what do you remember? Okay. I’m doing this. I’m moving forward.
You know, I was sitting, everything’s done at home now. Right? So I’m creating it on my computer, I’m filing with the Secretary of State. And at that point, it didn’t really hit me really. But it hit me when I received my business certificate. And my Oh, I forget what it’s called. But you receive a certificate from the state bar as well, when you form your own law firm. And it’s I mean, it’s really just a piece of paper. But it made me so happy when I received that and felt, you know, I was really going to accomplish my goals and move forward. And
Jerri Hemsworth 16:23
it’s official. Yeah. So official. And you’re like, Okay, this is very cool. What was? How did you? Do you remember the first client you had in your law firm? And how you got it?
Yeah, so it was actually a random call,
Jerri Hemsworth 16:43
A random call?
it was a random call. And the first we I did my initial consultation, we went through kind of how I would, you know, represent this person. And their response was, Wow, you were the most empathetic attorney I’ve spoken to, and that’s really, oh, this person decide to hire me as their attorney. Like, you know, I think most attorneys have, we have knowledge, right? We can all argue about who’s the smartest, who can recite the law, whatever that is. But especially in family law, the clients want to be heard, this is their personal life. And so even though the law says this, what they care about is how, you know, am I going to survive this? How are my children going to survive this? And they want to know that, yes, you know, the law, but also, how are you going to help them navigate this difficult time?
Jerri Hemsworth 17:43
Do you remember when you got your first check?
Well, there’s no text anymore. Um, but yes, I’ve received a little ping in my email. You know, this person has paid into their client trust account.
Jerri Hemsworth 18:03
And you’re like, oh, my gosh, yeah, about really being official.
Yeah. Well, you know, it’s exciting for me, because, you know, we talked about my husband a little bit earlier, but we’re actually going through a divorce. And so for me to be like, you know, what, I’m gonna go out and do this on my own now was really exciting. To be like, okay, you know, this is scary. It’s kind of the same thing as my clients, right? I’m experiencing it along with my clients in a way.
Jerri Hemsworth 18:34
And that probably gives you even more empathy for your clients. I mean, I can’t even imagine doing and for others, the same thing that you’re going through, that’s just gotta be a trip. And, like, very helpful, I would think,
yeah, I think, you know, it can be really reassuring when I tell clients, you know, like, there’s simple things like, if you have children, you have to watch these videos about co parenting on the LA County website, before you attend mediation, and I’m like, you know, I had to watch these videos, it’s, you know, to be able to say I did all of these same things that you’re going to have to go through and think you can make it through it, even if it’s difficult. And yeah, I think it’s really helpful for my clients to know that I really empathize with the situation they are in.
Jerri Hemsworth 19:25
Yeah, I I can only imagine that’s fantastic for them. How do you have a network of other attorneys that you can reach out to when you have questions? Or how do you network? How does your network work for you?
I have a great network of mostly women attorneys, there are a few men as well, who have really been helping me. I think I kind of have a photographic memory. So I remember a lot of facts. and things about the law, but some of the procedural stuff starting my own firm, I really needed help. And these women, we tell they give me referrals. I have one friend who she actually is, I mean, does mediation not litigation anymore. And so she’s been a tremendous resource and assisting me with referrals or just answering any questions. But yeah, that’s, you know, I have a great network of other attorneys that I speak to at least multiple times a week, even though they’ll call me for questions as well, even though the newer one, but sometimes, you know, you just happen, especially with my memory, I had someone call me from court the other day, and they were like, what’s that? I’m, like, Oh, what was it was about evidence, and they were like, how do I get this Police report in without it being hearsay?
Jerri Hemsworth 20:58
Because you know, and, yeah, photographic memory. That’s amazing. Did that had to have been perfect for you going through law school?
You know, what I? It was, but it was also kind of a hinderance really, because do reading so many cases. And I don’t know that I have a perfect photographic memory. And so all my friends for highlighting and taking notes, and I had never done that before,
Jerri Hemsworth 21:25
You’re like, what are you doing? Like, you need to take notes. Like, why it’s here.
You know, sometimes there were some cracks in it. So it helped me learn to be more organized.
Jerri Hemsworth 21:38
Okay. Oh, that’s great. Oh, my gosh. So back to your network that you have today. referrals, the client referrals, word of mouth, I have to believe is fantastic for you. Where do you get most of your client referrals? Are they from other attorneys or from friends or just other networking?
You know, I’m like, like I said, it’s a mix. Friends, other attorneys. You know, I’m a member of echelon. And other than echelon, I actually don’t belong to any other networking group. Yeah. Yeah. And so those are kind of my three points of where client referrals come from. And then obviously, word of mouth, other clients.
Jerri Hemsworth 22:26
And you said your you like, when you go to court, we talked about how sweet and lovely your voice is and that it’s actually a benefit to you. How is it a benefit to you In court?
You know, I think, as women sometimes for afraid to show our authentic selves, or feel we have to be a little stronger. Or so you know, in front of others. And I’m just kind of me. Yeah, this is my voice. This is how I speak. And I’ve had, you know, people definitely underestimate me and think, oh, this girl doesn’t know what she’s talking about. You know, along with the voice, I’ve been told I look younger than I actually am.
Jerri Hemsworth 23:11
Very young. So are young, which is great. It’s fantastic. Embrace it.
So you know, I have attorneys who think they can bully me or, you know, and I’m just like, Bring it on. I’m not gonna go for that. But now I see what your plan is. And I will attack that.
Jerri Hemsworth 23:29
I love it. Oh, my gosh, did you actually have somebody asked you about being an attorney with that voice?
Yes, I was. It was when I was in law school. It sounds like oh, you’re in law school. You want to be an attorney? Don’t you think your voice is kind of like high pitched for that?
Jerri Hemsworth 23:54
And what was your response?
No. You know, I embrace my voice. It is what it is,
Jerri Hemsworth 24:03
As you should, it’s absolutely wonderful.
Jerri Hemsworth 24:07
I absolutely. Love it. So your your client base is growing? Yeah. You are succeeding? And are you how do you feel about the next three to five years of your firm?
You know, I’m really excited I originally was my plan was just to stay so low. And now I’m kind of seeing that I may want to expand and bring on attorneys and support staff because right now I’m a true solo. I don’t have a receptionists, a legal assistant. I do all of the work myself. So now I’m starting to see that. You know, I think there’s a lot of potential in my firm and I kind of fill a spot that really isn’t being filled in family law. You know, especially here in LA, everyone thinks, you know, the most expensive attorney or the attorney who represented a celebrity is going to be the best. But it’s not always offering them what they need. And so even if they’re getting a settlement, they want more if they’re not, because they don’t feel heard, they’re not satisfied with it.
Jerri Hemsworth 25:20
Yeah, that’s, that’s, that’s kind of sad, that they aren’t being heard. That’s your, that’s your strong suit. That’s your, your shield in protecting them, isn’t it?
It is because, you know, like, I’ve, I really think that, you know, there’s, you don’t want to forget the client’s child’s name in court, or something like that. And so to me, knowing the facts of my client’s case is so important. And I really try and let them know that because they do, even if you can’t get them everything they want, if they feel heard, and that, you know, the reasoning behind why they want what they want, is so important to them. And if you acknowledge that, that you hear that, then the clients are still happy, even if it’s not necessarily the exact outcome they want.
Jerri Hemsworth 26:15
That’s great. Jessica, thank you so much for sitting with me today and being my first podcast on How She Got Her start. I think your story is wonderful, and I can’t wait to see how your firm grows.
Thank you so much for having me, Jerri. This was wonderful.
Jerri Hemsworth 26:32
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